Surplus delay no shock

Peter Gutwein

Peter Gutwein

TREASURER Peter Gutwein has defended the government’s decision to change the time frame for achieving a budget surplus.

Before the election, the Tasmanian Liberals set a target to reach surplus within the first term of government.

Mr Gutwein has now extended the deadline out to six years.

Opposition finance spokesman Scott Bacon said Mr Gutwein had broken a promise, and claimed the Treasurer had never intended to honour his commitment to fix the budget.

But Mr Gutwein said he didn’t want to cut harder than what the economy could cope with.

‘‘One of the key things that we’ve got at the moment is confidence starting to grow in the economy, we’re seeing green shoots,’’ Mr Gutwein said.

‘‘We want to ensure that continues, and it’s important that we manage that growth in the economy at the same time as we begin fixing the state budget.’’

Mr Gutwein said on Friday that the government’s wages bill had hit $2.4 billion for the state’s 25,000 public servants – almost half the state budget – and warned that voluntary redundancies would be offered in this Thursday’s budget.

He said a planned 12-month wages pause would help save about 500 jobs.

Mr Bacon said Mr Gutwein’s comments showed the budget would achieve nothing other than cutting jobs and public servants would pay for the party’s ‘‘unaffordable’’ election promises.

Community and Public Sector Union state secretary Tom Lynch said the public sector wages bill should come as no surprise to the government.

‘‘What the Treasurer is trying to do now is he’s trying to create a case for what he’s doing, a reason for what he’s doing, as if this is new,’’ Mr Lynch said. ‘‘There’s nothing new in this.’’

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey supported reining in the public sector, but said he’d rather see targeted redundancies that ensured the sector’s best workers were retained.

Mr Bailey also supported Mr Gutwein’s decision to extend the target for achieving surplus.

‘‘It’s a much smarter move to be honest about where the surplus point will be ... based on what you actually know now,’’ Mr Bailey said.

‘‘But it’s also a smarter way to get to surplus in a much strategic and slower way, to try to stop the economy from being shocked by any significant changes.’’

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